(U.S. Department of Defence) Military efforts to defeat ISIS are about six to eight months ahead of where officials thought they would be at this point, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said. The success throughout the campaign has been quite extraordinary, he added.
With major urban battles complete, the follow-up, especially in Iraq, has been rapid and has moved much faster anticipated, Votel said, and now the effort is focused on cleaning up remaining ISIS forces and stabilizing the region.
Aligning Military Planning with Stabilization
“As we got ready to go into Mosul 18 months ago, we tried to make sure that our military planning was very closely aligned to our development of stabilization planning and the humanitarian aspects that have gone along with that, as well as with the political planning that had to take place,” the general said.
With the assistance of the coalition and with a lot of hard work by the Iraqis, Votel said, an Iraqi army that in 2014 was running away from ISIS is now one that by last fall was conducting major large unit operations of division and corps level.
The Iraqi security forces very quickly consolidated their success with a variety of other operations, the Centcom commander said, some with coalition support and many of them without coalition support to complete the liberation from ISIS that Iraq’s prime minister announced in December.
Since then, he said, the Iraqis have continued to conduct a variety of additional operations – some with coalition support and some without — to consolidate their gains and get after ISIS’ remaining underlying the presence.
“I think it’s important to recognize in both of these areas that while in Iraq where we’ve liberated the terrain, [ISIS is] no longer governing, no longer exerting taxes, no longer performing governmental functions like they have in the past.” Votel said. “But there still is a presence, and so the Iraqi security forces are very much focused on that.”
Developing New Skills
The Iraqis also have begun to transition from major combat operations to what to what they need to do now, Votel said, which is more wide-area security operations. This will require them to develop a variety of military skills that will allow them to address the insurgent or guerilla-type tactics that they would expect to see from ISIS at this stage, he added.
The general said the United States and the coalition are working closely with the Iraqi forces to help them recover and get back to normal.
“I do expect we will continue to see our alliance on the [Counter Terrorism Service] as one of their principal fighting elements,” Votel said. “They’ve been very strong since the beginning, and we’ll continue to see that as the Iraqi security forces step up to the plate and begin to take on more of those tasks in the future.”